Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz raced three nights last week to complete their annual May swing through central Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. Kinser continued his surge behind the wheel of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D. Byrider/Chevrolet Maxim, racing to a top-five finish Wednesday at Rolling Wheels Raceway in Elbrige, N.Y., and scoring his second triumph of 2012 Saturday by leading all 25 laps of the A-Feature at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, N.Y. Schatz, who struggled in qualifying both Saturday and Sunday, closed the week by charging the TSR No. 15 No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevrolet J&J from 26th to 10th Sunday at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway.
The Outlaws’ first 2012 stop in New York came Wednesday and both TSR drivers were eager to return the 5/8-mile Rolling Wheels dirt oval, where last fall the two were involved in an opening-lap accident. Kinser qualified 11th in the field of 26 cars and after come home second in heat two. He finished sixth in the dash. Schatz qualified ninth and finished second in heat three and came home fifth in the dash. Kinser passed Schatz early in the 25-lap A-Feature and the duo held fifth and sixth for most of the race. A late double-file restart forced Schatz to the inside groove, and he lost a couple of positions during the final laps, eventually finishing eighth. Kinser finished fifth to earn his ninth top-five of the season and closed to within four points of Sammy Swindell, who led the standings at the time.
Paul McMahan led all 25 laps to win the A-Feature at Rolling Wheels and became the 11th different winner in 2012.
Saturday marked the Outlaws’ first visit to the spacious Orange County Fairgrounds since late in the 2008 campaign. Kinser qualified seventh and it proved to be his lucky number the rest of the evening. “The King of the Outlaws” won the opening heat, the dash and led all 25 laps of the A-Feature. The win was his second of 2012, sixth at Orange County, and the 572nd WoO A-Feature win of his career. The victory also pushed Kinser into a tie atop the WoO standings with Swindell, who finished second.
Experience was key in this one as Kinser was one of only three drivers not to blow a right-rear tire. Track conditions were treacherours late in the night and, unfortunately for Schatz, he lost his right-rear while running inside the top-10. Schatz started 15th and was working his way forward when his tire expired four laps from the end. The STP crew replaced the tire and Schatz raced back to 12th.
The week of racing concluded with the Outlaws’ return to Hagerstown for the first time since 2005. Both TSR drivers qualified deep in the field – Kinser 20th and Schatz 29th – and neither finished in the top-five of his respective heat. The problems continued in the 12-lap B-Main as Schatz was collected in an accident during a lap-eight restart and Kinser’s motor soured on the final lap. He finished fifth, one position out of a transfer spot. Both drivers elected to take provisional starting spots and the two put on a show during the 25-lap A-Feature, charging forward from row 13. Schatz finished 10th to give him a series-best 16 top-10s in 2012 while Kinser made it up to 11th.
Craig Dollansky led all 25 laps and joined Schatz as a three-time WoO winner this season.
Through 21 races this season, the championship standings have changed seemingly after each race. Swindell and Schatz swapped the lead during a recent six-race stretch and, this past week, Kinser took over the top spot. Following Hagerstown, Kinser holds an 18-point advantage over Swindell. Schatz remains in third, trailing Kinser by 32 markers.
The unpredictable season will continue Friday as the Outlaws venture to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown. The race will air live on SPEED beginning at 8 p.m. EDT. The TSR teams will then head to Indiana for a Monday event at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.